Jesse Erin is the founder and creative director for Stepforward. After stints at Ford Modeling and Condé Nast she was inspired to follow her entrepreneurial spirit and develop a women’s brand for the collegiate market. She happily resides in Los Angeles and is intensely focused on understanding customer choices primarily in lifestyle brands and ready to wear items.
What motivated and inspired you to start your own business?
It seems like a lot of businesses are often started in reaction to some kind of problem. When I was in college I was always looking for something to wear in the bookstore and I felt like there was just nothing for me there. I started the business to answer that need.
Tell us about your business.
We are a women’s owned, women’s focused fashion business. We design, manufacture, and enhance contemporary basics for the collegiate apparel market. You can find our product and many major universities across the country.
Where is your business based?
Our garment design and production teams are based in LA and our sales and graphic design teams are based in NYC.
What were the first few steps you took to get your business up and running?
I started talking to my friends and co workers about this idea and found out that most of them felt the same way I did. Then I thought about the T’s and sweatshirts that I liked to wear and being in LA I decided to stock the delivery trucks of the brands I like and find out where things were being made.
What has been the most effective way of raising awareness of your business and getting new customers?
Our market in unique because it is largely driven by a few key trade shows that essentially gives us exposure to the entire market once a year. We work really hard to create an experience that is very different from our competitors and clearly connects to our brand identity which really resonates with female buyers.
What have been your biggest challenges so far?
In the beginning it was really hard to get large retailers to take a chance on a smaller up and coming line. We have heard it’s the same for many wholesale businesses.
How did you overcome these challenges?
How do you keep motivated through difficult times?
How do you distinguish yourself from your competitors?
I only make stuff that I would want to wear.
What is the best advice you have received recently?
“Don’t get lost in the what if’s, deal with what is.”
What advice would you give to other entrepreneurs?
Develop a team of non sketchy people that are good at everything you are not.
What are your favorite business tools/resources and why?
I hate excel. I am all about numbers, pages, and keynote.
What is a good article or book you have read recently?
“The Last Days of Night” by Graham Moore.
What are you currently learning about for your business or looking for help with?
Getting even more well versed in the nuances of fabric and die.
What are your goals for the next few months and how are you striving to achieve them?
Trying to stop working by 8 pm – alarms.
What social media outlets do you use? List them below.